Publish(ish)

Welcome back!

I’m sorry it’s been so long, but I finally have something to write another post about. A few things, actually. Quite a bit has happened since my last batch of words here, so I’m going to deliver it all in three distinct acts. That way you can experience it with the same excitement and foreboding that I did as it unfolded.

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I see that you can barely handle the compulsory anticipation.

ACT I

This is where I was in November. I had a completed (sort of) manuscript for the first book in my Ethereal Earth Series, and I was proudly showing it to anyone who even resembled a literary agent or book-seller…or book-reader, honestly. I just wanted it out there! I thought that as long as I was waving the thing around, it would eventually get some positive attention.

And it worked. In my first batch of agent queries (one-page letters explaining why I’m not a complete doofus and my book deserves to exist) I actually got several requests for partials and one request for the full manuscript. Which is a pretty great response for a beginner. It’s like getting through to the second round on American Idol. It means that, not only are you not hilariously bad, but you’re SO not terrible that professionals are willing to spend more time on you. Without the promise of baked goods or backrubs or anything! I was definitely happy with it. So I sent my stuff out to the requesting agents, then sat back and waited for the offers to come rolling in.

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Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaany minute now.

That’s right. While I got quite a bit of positive feedback, I didn’t get anything concrete. And that’s typical. Expected, even. Big time authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King had to try a bunch of times before they got published, and I’m just, like…me. It’ll take a while, and I knew that going in. I got some suggestions for changes I could make to submit back in the future, and I got some genuinely good advice that I’ve since used to make the story stronger. But I didn’t get an agent in my first round of attempts. That was about two months of submitting and waiting.

ACT II

But I didn’t waste that time. In between trying to break the e-mail server with refreshes, I was writing a new book and researching more agents. I had it in my head that I wanted to publish my stuff traditionally, and that meant jumping through all the hoops. Each agent has different submission criteria that you have to abide by, and they also have different preferences in genre, sub-genre, character, and general tone. AND, since they’re human beings, those preferences can change periodically based on market conditions, their current roster of clients, and what they had for breakfast that morning.

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“Wow, this French toast and Polish sausage platter is amazing. How was your Danish? …Why do I suddenly feel like reading European Historical Fiction?”

So if you want to stand a chance at catching their attention, the accepted wisdom is that you need to suss out some kind of connection from their profile and tailor your submission material to match. That takes time that’s almost always wasted. It’s not even like online dating; it’s like blind speed-dating in a crowded airport terminal full of shouting maniacs who are trying to sell the manifesto they wrote entirely on toilet paper. You have to pull loose from that pack somehow, and it takes effort. That’s for one agent, and you’re supposed to do that anywhere from 80 to 200 times before giving up. Yeah…

After months of doing that, I stopped liking it even a little. Because even if you do find someone interested, it’ll be weeks or months before they have time to get to your book. And then they’ll ask for more material, and it’s another few weeks or months. Then a revise and resubmit request, and another few months…you get the idea. You could land an agent tomorrow, but it’s far more realistic to expect it in a year or two. THEN it’s another year of revisions and submissions to publishing houses, who, if you’re lucky, will request their own revisions. That’s all before you see a dime from any of it.

Now, there’s something to be said for the love of the game, but come on. All of that effort takes away from writing time. And that’s the whole point! I write because I love it, not because I want accolades. (Editor: Josh is currently accepting any and all accolades.) So why spend a third or more of my time trying to convince someone to sell my book, when there’s a perfectly viable shortcut that allows me to write more books to sell?

ACT III 

That’s right, I’ve decided to self-publish this series. Now, it used to be that vanity publishers would charge a crazy rate to print your clown romance novel, and BOOM, you had a book. And that still happens to people who don’t know better. But Amazon, ITunes, and Google Play all make it so much easier now. You sell based on the quality of your work and your marketing skills. That’s it. It’s the self-checkout of publishing, and you can be as successful as your work ethic allows.

The big difference is that you have to arrange everything yourself. You have to hire a professional editor (which I have), get the cover designed and ready (which I’m doing), and make all the decisions on your own. It’s scary, sure, but it’s also like setting up a new small business. You have to make some investments, work hard, and hope people like what you end up with–all while ostracizing your friends by relentlessly selling your dream as loudly as possible.

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“HA HA! Ha ha ha! Ha…You tell the best stories, friend. They should book you on a talk show! Oh hey, speaking of books…”

So that’s where I am now. The book goes to a really cool editor at the beginning of March, and she’ll help me get this thing into professional shape. Once I’ve pounded out all the dents and polished it up to a nice glossy shine, it’ll be ready to go. Right now I’m planning on releasing it in May, but I’ll firm up that date as it gets closer. It’ll be available as a paperback, e-book, and audiobook–which I’m recording myself thanks to my friends and family who set me up with the sweet gear this Christmas. If you want to hear me do accents, curse, and talk like a lady, that’s the version you’ll want. (Note: The cursing is by far the hardest to catch me at in real life. Think of them as limited edition f-bombs.)

And to wrap up this long post, I’ll let you know that I just finished the first draft of the next book in the series, and I tentatively hope to release that sometime this Fall. Now, the logical reaction may be to think it’s a little presumptuous to write a sequel before the first book is even published, and you might be right. But I honestly think you’ll be convinced once I show you the following 97-point plan:

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It’s… Just trust me, okay?

That’s my news for now. Exciting things will be happening more regularly with the looming release schedule, so I promise to update more frequently. Please consider joining the mailing list if you’d like to be notified the next time I smoosh some words together here. Thanks for sticking through the whole post!

8 thoughts on “Publish(ish)

  1. I got an agent for my first novel in less than a year, through an instructor at a writing conference who really liked my writing. We did about 4 or 5 major revisions before he thought it was ready for the big 5. I started planning for my lakefront writing cabin.

    3 years later and all the major houses had passed on it. Then the smaller presses started passing on it.

    I was determined to get that book sold, and because I spent so much time trying to do it, I missed the opportunity to write another two or three books in the meantime.

    Then after another year or so I found an editor who loved the novel. But she wanted some revisions. So I did another round.

    I wound up getting it published by one of the Big 5 on their first digital imprint. It should pretty well, which resulted in a contract for 2 more books. I cranked out one per year and now my trilogy is complete.

    What would have happened if I had simply given up and published my novel via Amazon or some other service? I’ll tell you what wouldn’t have happened—I wouldn’t have had an absolutely top-notch editor and an *oustanding* line editor. You would be amazed at what those unsung heroes catch.

    I wouldn’t have had a designer with experience producing hundreds of covers.

    I would not have had a promotion team that knew how to game the various newsletters and retailers like Bookbub that resulted in thousands of copies sold in a matter of days.

    I would not have had a signing opportunity at Comic Con NYC.

    And my sales would probably be in the hundreds instead of the tens of thousands.

    I would have had to be my entire promotion department. Are you ready to take on that job? If you think it’s hard to find time writing while you’re trying to find an agent, try finding time to write when you’re busy trying to market and sell your book all by yourself.

    But let’s say you self-publish your book. Then you want to get a traditional publisher. Guess what they do? They look at Amazon, too. They see you’ve sold 300 copies. Or maybe 500. Which puts you far, far ahead of most self-published authors.

    Do you think they’re going to ask to read your new book?

    Of course there are setf–published authors who break out, and maybe you’ll be one of them. I sincerely hope you are.

    But I recommend not giving up because the process is hard, painful, and bleak. I know the temptation to just say “fuck it, I’m going to do this myself!” If you ultimately want to be traditionally published, just keep busting your ass. Go to conferences and get to know editors and agents. Like any game, it’s often about who you know.

    Just my 2 cents, and best of luck!

    Like

    1. Thanks for the reply! I definitely agree that the traditional route is the way to go given the time. Aside from the glamour of it, the sheer access it grants within the industry is tremendous. And I actually have another series in the works that I plan on taking that slow road with. I certainly haven’t given up on slogging through and doing it the old fashioned way!

      But I genuinely think this series has a niche appeal that will work well in a self-published format. It’s envisioned as ten books, which is a tough sell to the big houses from what I hear. But I think there is a desire for those larger series provided you can establish a back catalog and some consistency in quality and release schedule. So rather than setting this book aside while I write something more widely marketable, I’ve decided to use it as a way to start building an audience and platform in order to make my future work more attractive to the traditional market. It’s definitely not the old way of doing it, but it has a kind of boot-strap quality that I like. 🙂

      Also, while I’d love to see this thing break out and exceed my expectations, I’m only looking to sell enough to justify more writing right now. While traditional publishing has quantity in spades, self-pub has some attractive margins that work with the lower sales numbers. And I get to make some creative choices I might not otherwise! Like dusting off years of vocal training and recording my own audiobook–which is about the funnest thing I can imagine short of writing more books!

      Okay, now that the official reply is done…Dude, thank you so much for checking out my tiny little blog and leaving a genuinely helpful and kind reply. Blackwater Lights just moved up to the top of my “must read” list!

      Like

  2. Hey, Josh.

    I found Hero Forged on Audible about a week after it came and have listened to it several times (including right now). The first time, of course, with absolute attention and focus, the others while working because I love the way you voice the characters and when I have the chance to tune into the story it’s always at the good part, because the whole thing is the good part.
    I love the world you’ve built and I adore your characters.
    I’m rambling. Point being, I love your work and I’m unbelievably glad I found it.
    Thank you for the laughs and the tears and for giving me something new to look forward to. I’m a HUGE fan, and I hope you’re doing well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dallas, Now I’m a huge fan of yours! 🙂 Seriously, that’s so nice of you to say. I really love these characters, so it was fun to be able to give them those extra elements with the audio. I’ve always preferred audiobooks as a format, and being able to perform one was a bit of a dream. When I get feedback like yours, it makes it that much better. Thank you so much for giving the book a shot in the first place, for digging in so thoroughly, and for coming here to tell me about it! The next book should be out this Winter, and I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts about that one too!

      Like

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